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PM in rush to complete Kedarnath reconstruction, experts have a word of caution

They say state-of-the-art earthquake resistant technology needs to be employed in centrally funded infrastructure projects in Uttarakhand

dehradun Updated: Nov 23, 2017 20:11 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
Kedarnath reconstruction,Chardham road,All-weather chardham road
Chief secretary UK Singh was recently at Kedarnath to take stock of the reconstruction works. (HT PHOTO)

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested he would personally monitor the reconstruction works at Kedarnath to ensure its early completion, experts cautioned the Centre against implementing all its three mega infrastructural projects in Uttarakhand without employing latest technologies.

The word of caution came in view of the central Himalayan region’s “geological and seismic” sensitivity. Apart from the Kedarnath reconstruction project, the foundation stone of which was laid by Modi on October 20, two other centrally funded projects are also coming up in the mountain state. They are the Rs 12,000 crore Chardham all weather road project and the Rs 16000 core Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project.

On Wednesday, at a videoconference attended by chief secretary Utpal Kumar Singh, the PM said he would personally monitor the Kedanath reconstruction project through cameras installed on drones. It was a succinctly delivered message to the state bureaucracy to ensure the early completion of the ambitious project.

Modi is said to be in a hurry to have the project completed by 2018. The move is being seen as part of his “strategy” to launch the BJP’s poll campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Kedarnath. Chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat had recently stated that the work to implement two other centrally funded schemes “is also going on in a full swing.”

Geological experts though do not seem much impressed. “State-of-the-art earthquake resistant technologies should be used in implementing all the three projects as a major earthquake is due in the state”, said Prof Y P Sundriyal, a veteran geologist at H N B Garhwal (Central) University. “Such a seismic event is due as it usually occurs after a gap of 100 years and the region has not witnessed it since 1803.”

Besides, the latest slope treatment technologies would also have to be employed while widening the roads snaking through the mountainous areas, under the Chardham all-weather road project. Sundriyal warned if such precautions were not observed all the three infrastructures currently coming up in the region would not be able to withstand the tremors of a major earthquake. “If a natural calamity of this magnitude occurs during the Chardham yatra (pilgrimage) it will result in a massive human loss”, he warned. Sundriyal clarified that a high intensity quake might not result in that much damage to the Rishikesh-Karnaprayag rail project as the rail line would mostly pass through tunnels.

Similarly, latest technologies would have to be used in implementing the Kedarnath reconstruction project, he said. The fabled shrine town was struck by the cataclysmic 2013 floods, which were triggered by the bursting of an ice lake. It was formed by the melting of the Chaurabari glacier, according to experts.

Sundriyal cautioned that a three-tier protection wall each being built along the Mandakini and Sarswati rivers would not be enough to protect the Kedarnath town in case of floods or earthquake. “Structures stronger in strength would be needed to protect the town in case it witnesses a repeat of the 2013 floods or a seismic event”, Dr S P Sati, a research officer at the HNB Garhwal Univesity’s geology department said adding the rail line project too might spell a disaster if a high intensity quake occurred.

Darshan Singh Rawat, the chief minister’s media coordinator, sought to allay all such fears. “State-of-the-art technologies are being used in implementing all three projects to ensure that they remain unaffected in case of a seismic event or floods”, he told HT.

First Published: Nov 23, 2017 20:11 IST